Series on End Time Prophecy: Clues to Understanding the Placement of the First Resurrection.
I do not get into naming the day or the hour of our Lord's return assuming Jesus was referring to it in Matt. 24:36. However, I have noticed that when most people study End Time Prophecy they are in search of a few answers. 1.) Will we Christians have to endure some of the tribulation? and 2.) Where is the placement of the Rapture in this whole scheme of things?
I believe we find the answers to these two questions without getting into the game of trying to name the day and the hour of the Lord's return. What follows are some clues to finding those answers.
Lets start with the words of Jesus recorded by John in chapter 5:24-29 "...in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice. And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life, and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation." So we see their are two resurrections (only two) one to Heaven and life, and the other to Hell and damnation. Isaiah writes, "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all." Isa. 53:6
In Isaiah 64:6 he goes on to say, "But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousness are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away." So how can we be part of the first resurrection, that resurrection unto life and heaven? The only way is to accept Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord. Jesus said, " I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man cometh unto the Father, but by me." (John 14:6) Take time also read, John 3:16-21; Eph.2:8-9; Rom. 10:9-10; and Acts 4:12.
So we know their are only two resurrections and to get into heaven being part of the first one you have to accept Jesus Christ the Lord as your savior.
The third clue would lead us to the placement of this first resurrection. The Apostle Paul led by the Holy Spirit writes, " In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed..." ( I Cor. 15:51-58) Paul adds some details when he writes, " For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the LORD in the air: and so shall we ever be with the LORD." ( I Thess. 4:16-17) (Note: "Then we which are alive and remain" refers to Christians who are alive at the time of the first resurrection.)
So this first resurrection takes place at the "last trumpet". The dead in Christ will rise first THEN we who remain alive and who are "in Christ" shall be caught up with them to meet the LORD in the air. (Note: He has not returned yet, we meet Him in the air.) So lets look for a place in scripture where we find those clues.
We find in Rev. 10:7 an interesting phrase, "... the mystery of God should be finished..." I think this falls together with what the Apostle Paul wrote in I Cor.15:51, "...Behold I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, (or die) but we shall all be changed..." If these two passages of scripture speak of the same thing then Revelation chapter 10 and 11 become very important to our search for clues.
God has said in his Word, " By the word of two or three witnesses shall a thing be established..." Rev 11: 3-12 says, " And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophecy a thousand two hundred and three score days, clothed in sackcloth..." God has chosen two witnesses to bear record and to be eye-witnesses in the courts of Heaven concerning all that God has and will do with, for and to the human race. By his witnesses we humans will realize that all his actions have been just and righteous.
So who are these two witnesses? We read in Genesis 5:23 " ...And all the days of Enoch were three hundred sixty and five years. And Enoch walk with God: and he was not; for God took him." Enoch is still alive and has witnessed what God did with the human race at the time of Noah's flood. Enoch was there and lived it both on Earth and then he saw it from Heaven's perspective. In II Kings 2:1-18 we read the story of Elijah when he went up to heaven in a fiery chariot with horses of fire. "...and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven..."
These two witnesses will witness all God's actions concerning Redemption and it's completion; including Death and Resurrection. These two come back to Earth to minister to God's chosen people for 3 and 1/2 years. They are killed - and are dead for 3 and 1/2 days. We read the account in Rev. 11:11, " And after 3 days and a half the Spirit of life from God entered into them and they stood upon their feet; and a great fear fell upon them which saw them. And they heard a great voice from heaven saying unto them, Come up hither. And they ascended up to heaven in a cloud; and their enemies beheld them."
These two witness have lived in heaven and witnessed for millenniums watching what God has done from Heaven's perspective. They then come back to complete their mission. They witness death and are part of the "dead in Christ". They then witness the "first resurrection" to lead all those who will be raised from the dead unto life eternal with Jesus Christ. They then also lead those who will be "caught up" together with them..."
The following verses in Rev.11: 13-19 are confirmation that this is "the time of the dead..." that they should be judged and rewarded. Rewards to thy servants the prophets, rewards to the saints, and rewards to them that fear thy name. All these category's of people are "those in Christ" so this is the time of the "dead in Christ" being raised from the dead and being rewarded.
These rewards are spoken of in I Cor. 3:10-15 the rewards are given to those whose works pass through the fire with eternal value. If a person's works have no eternal value they will be consumed by the fire thus we read, "...but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire." Jesus said, " Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you."
The second resurrection when the dead wicked are raised does not happen for 1000 years according to Rev. 20:5-6, "...But the rest of the dead lived not again until the 1000 years were finished. This is the first resurrection blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection; on such the second death has no power,..."
Many who promote the interpretation known as the Pre-Tribulation Rapture look at Rev.4:1 where John hears a voice saying "come up hither" as the place where the rapture takes place. But note that John is alive and in fact he says in verse two he was "in the spirit". This is not the "time of the dead in Christ". We know that the rapture or being "caught up" will take place in the blink of an eye following the first resurrection and none of those clues appear in Revelation chapter four.
Sincerely, Keeping the Faith,
Rev. Wm.Thomas Howie